A paper, published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, states that rosemary extract displays a powerful anti-anxiety effect without offering any kind of side effects. The researchers from Iran conducted the study. They showed that rosemary exhibits potential use in treating anxiety.
Anxiety has become a worldwide problem. More than 500 million people across the world suffer from anxiety. It causes continuous feelings of worry or fear in even everyday situations. If left untreated, this problem affects the quality of one’s life adversely.
Most of the time, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety. Both of these drugs are also used against depression. However, these drugs offer several side effects including nausea, vomiting, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and drug dependency. This is why patients are advised to opt for alternative treatments like herbal remedies.
Similarly, many researchers across the world are focusing on discovering natural treatments for anxiety. Natural products serve as good alternatives to anti-anxiety drugs not only because of their potency but also safety.
Rosemary is a common medicinal plant, native to the Mediterranean and Southern European countries. It is a perennial shrub which, reportedly, has a broad range of pharmacological activities including,
- Killing bacteria and fungi
- Reducing inflammation
- Preventing mutagenesis
- Neutralizing free radicals
- Promoting blood circulation
- Lowering blood sugar levels
The researchers attribute the medicinal properties of rosemary to the bioactive compounds present in it. These compounds vary with the form of the plant. The essential oils of rosemary plant contain tricicline, 1,8-cineole, camphor, camphene, and bornyl acetate. On the other hand, hydromethanolic extracts of the plant are rich in flavonoids.
For the study, the researchers employed mice as test subjects. They administered hydroalcoholic extracts from rosemary into the abdomen of these mice. In addition, they administered Diazepam i.e. a common anti-anxiety drug. The researchers carried out the elevated plus maze test to determine the anti-anxiety effects of both the extract and the drug.
Elevated plus maze is the most reliable way of measuring anti-anxiety effects in laboratory animals. It employs rodents as a research tool in neurobiological anxiety research. Elevated plus maze involves two open arms and two closed arms. The open arms are of the plus sign where the mice can see over the edge. The mice exhibiting lower anxiety levels tend to move to the open arms and stay there for a longer span as compared to the anxious mice.
The results of the study revealed that rosemary extract showed similar effects like that of Diazepam in alleviating anxiety among mice. The mice treated with rosemary extract showed reduced anxiety at a degree similar to Diazepam, especially at higher doses. Moreover, the medicinal herb didn’t offer any side effects whereas, Diazepam additionally caused a seizure, depression, memory loss, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, insomnia, and liver problems.
The researchers couldn’t find the exact mechanism behind rosemary’s anti-anxiety effects. However, the researchers hypothesized that flavonoids present in the extract could possibly bring the desired results. This is because flavonoids can cross the blood-brain barrier to enhance the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a brain chemical that reduces in patients with depression and anxiety. The antioxidant activities of rosemary were also accredited to have a potential role in reducing anxiety.
Thus the researchers concluded that rosemary extract has anti-anxiety effects parallel to the anxiolytic drug Diazepam. This is because of the presence of flavonoids promoting antioxidant activities and improving GABA production.
The study suggests that rosemary extract can serve as a potential natural remedy for anxiety. However, further research is still encouraged regarding the subject.